In Many Waters is the gripping story of three orphans whose lives intersect on the island of Malta during our current, urgent refugee crisis. Zoe, a budding historian, comes to Malta with her younger brother Cal to learn more about their Maltese mother, as well as the mysterious circumstances surrounding their parents’ untimely deaths. The siblings’ well-mapped plans are derailed when Cal, who is a daily swimmer in the Mediterranean, discovers a girl floating in the sea, barely alive. The small, battered fishing boat on which she has journeyed from Libya to Malta capsized in a storm: Aziza is the sole survivor. Meanwhile, Zoe returns to the site of her parents’ drownings and stumbles across a trail of clues which lead to the discovery of an unknown family member, unearthing a chain of life-changing secrets. In Many Waters brilliantly mines the hearts and minds of characters in extremis, the unforgettable tale of the ways that we love and help one another and how the choices we make reverberate through generations.
“This captivating novel explores the unmaking and remaking of families, as well as the dark secrets and grim histories that can destroy lives—a few of which can be salvaged and redeemed by love and hope. In Many Waters is a profound and moving work.”
—Joseph Kertes, author of The Afterlife of Stars and Gratitude
“In Many Waters feels like a miracle. In her ambitious, cross-cultural examination of love in absence, Ami Sands Brodoff covers huge swaths of time and space with a remarkably light touch. The novel manages to be simultaneously local and global, domestic and political, intimate and vast. Brodoff’s portrayal of the hardship of refugees is timely, wise, and moving. I fell for each of these characters—especially Zoe and Cal--siblings orphaned by their parents even while their parents still lived. As soon as I turned the final page of this extraordinary novel, I wanted to read it again.”
—Angie Abdou, author of Between
“Orphaned at an early age, Zoe and Cal both long to understand and occupy their lives. When they visit the island of Malta, Zoe finds herself drawn into the several mysteries surrounding her parents’ lives and deaths. Meanwhile, Cal becomes involved with trying to rescue an illegal immigrant. As the narrative moves between Malta and Mexico, Marrakech and Montreal, past and present, Ami Sands Brodoff weaves their complex stories into a deeply satisfying and suspenseful narrative. In Many Waters is a splendid and very timely novel.”
—Margot Livesey, author of Mercury and The Flight of Gemma Hardy
Ami Sands Brodoff is the award-winning author of three novels and a volume of stories. Her previous novel, The White Space Between, about a mother and daughter struggling with the impact of the Holocaust, won The Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction. Bloodknots, a volume of thematically linked stories about families on the edge, was a finalist for The ReLit Award. Ami’s debut novel, Can You See Me? was nominated for The Pushcart Prize.
In Many Waters by Ami Sands Brodoff
reviewed by The Miramichi Reader - March 12, 2017
Award-winning author Ami Sands Brodoff's newest novel, In Many Waters (Inanna 2017) takes place primarily in Malta where Zoe, along with her brother Cal were born and raised. The story begins in Malta. It is 2007 and it has been 7 years since Zoe and Cal lost their parents, Cassandra and Lior, in a surfing accident in waters off Mexico. Zoe dislikes being on the water, for it means you could be in it, a fear instilled in her when as a child, her father threw her into the water in a "sink or swim" moment: "Zoe never quite forgave him for that scare. but her lifelong fear was perverse revenge. Her parent's drowning deaths only made her terror burrow in more deeply." Cal, on the other hand, is like his father and loves the water and is a strong swimmer.
Meanwhile, off the coast of Libya, a young woman by the name of Aziza floats, a survivor of an attempt to flee the country and reach Malta as a refugee.
"Black water licked her limbs. She remembered where she was, had no idea how long she’d been floating in the sea, no sense how long she could hold on. Aziza thought of Uncle Nuru strapping her into the life vest the moment she stepped onto his old wooden fishing boat in the middle of the night at the port in Tripoli. Uncle had to tie the straps tight, Aziza was so skinny. She’d always been thin no matter how much she ate, with long arms and legs, a swan-like neck, slender hands and feet. Like her father. Like Baba, she was strong;unlike him, she looked delicate.
Her father, Idir, had vanished from their home in Tripoli six months ago. After Baba disappeared, the terror grew. Menacing calls, death threats scrawled onto the front of their house. Her father’s leather shop in the souk ransacked, their home set on fire, then Uncle Nuru’s burned to the ground. They were not the only ones. Anyone under suspicion, anyone disloyal to Brother Leader Qaddafi, or accused of disloyalty—it didn’t take much."
Aziza is rescued by Cal when he sees her floating in the water when he is out for a swim. Unsure what to do with her, or what might happen to her as an illegal immigrant, he takes her back to his apartment where he helps her to regain her health. Not being able to hide her in his apartment forever, Aziza eventually comes to the attention of the Maltese authorities and is subjected to the demeaning immigrant internment process along with hundreds of others. Thanks to Cal's help on the outside, Aziza is eventually taken in by a Montreal family as a nanny. Cal will eventually follow her there where he plans to attend university. At the time of Aziza's rescue, Zoe is in Mexico trying to track down clues about her parent's death (the bodies were never recovered) and where she discovers her parent's marriage wasn't as secure as she thought, which raises more questions in her mind. One can feel Zoe's frustrations at the insensible clues she is given, especially from Luz, a close friend of her mother:
"Lior did not like our friendship, which stood between them, but she could not have survived...without me."
"Well, she didn't."
Luz sat erect, her chin raised, looking past Zoe. "Neither did he."
Shit, Zoe hated this woman.
In Many Waters is a multi-layered, multi-national, multi-generational story that is fascinating to read. There is also the significant side story of Zoe's estranged Aunt Yael (Cassandra's older sister), who one day up and leaves Cassandra and her parents and disappears. The book is also quite informative regarding the history of the Jewish people in Malta and how they came to form a community on that tiny island. Overall an impressive read, right to the final page.
Black water licked her limbs. She remembered where she
was, had no idea how long she’d been floating in the sea, no
sense how long she could hold on. Aziza thought of Uncle
Nuru strapping her into the life vest the moment she stepped
onto his old wooden fishing boat in the middle of the night
at the port in Tripoli. Uncle had to tie the straps tight, Aziza
was so skinny. She’d always been thin no matter how much
she ate, with long arms and legs, a swan-like neck, slender
hands and feet. Like her father. Like Baba, she was strong;
unlike him, she looked delicate.
Her father, Idir, had vanished from their home in Tripoli
six months ago. After Baba disappeared, the terror grew.
Menacing calls, death threats scrawled onto the front of their
house. Her father’s leather shop in the souk ransacked, their
home set on fire, then Uncle Nuru’s burned to the ground.
They were not the only ones. Anyone under suspicion,
anyone disloyal to Brother Leader Qaddafi, or accused of
disloyalty—it didn’t take much.
Stepping onto the wooden fishing boat, Aziza hadn’t
known if she was more afraid to board or to stay behind….
Already her cousins had boarded, Afua, one year older
than Aziza, more sister than cousin at eighteen, and Afua’s
little sister Dede, who’d just turned ten. Bassam, a young
man Afua fancied who cooked the best kebabs in the city
and already owned his own shop was on the boat with his
mother and three sisters, the girls fighting over a doll they’d
snuck on board, pulling it by its plastic limbs until a leg
snapped from its socket and they burst into tears. Bassam
huddled them into his chest, promised to fix the doll like
new. He was a sweetheart, Bassam, and the girls believed
him. Maybe he would, could, once they were safe on shore.
Anything was possible. Afua nuzzled up to him, stroked his
cheek and the hair prickled on Aziza’s forearms.